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    Op-Ed
    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Down with political dynasties

    “The state of Connecticut has always been governed by an aristocracy.”

    That is what former President John Adams wrote in 1808 to describe Connecticut. This system of political dynasties controlled the state from its inception until 1817, when the reformist Oliver Wolcott Jr. took office as governor and crushed their influence.

    However, we may now be witnessing a rebirth of political dynasties.

    Nick Simmons announced a run for the Connecticut State Senate in February, hoping to defeat former Senator Trevor Crow in a primary, and then incumbent Senator Ryan Fazio. Previously, Simmons worked under Gov. Ned Lamont as Deputy Chief of Staff. Most people are more familiar, however, with his sister Caroline, the mayor of Stamford.

    Matt Blumenthal is one of the biggest figures within the General Assembly. He’s the Chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, and was previously Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Before his time in politics, he was an attorney, and before that, a Marine. A life very similar, in fact, to his father, Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

    Matthew Ritter has been Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives since 2021, after a decade in the chamber, and four years as Majority Leader. His mother was a judge in Connecticut, but his political career more so reflects his father Thomas Ritter, who was also speaker for five years in the 1990s. Thomas’ father and brother were also Connecticut lawmakers.

    Not just Democrats have familial ties. New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a Republican, is the daughter of former mayor Tim Stewart. The two Stewarts have ruled New Britain for a combined 18 years, separated only by a one-term Democrat. Her uncle was also in the General Assembly for a grand 22 years.

    Other key members of the Connecticut political establishment are also scions of major dynasties, albeit not political ones. The brother of state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo controls a massive real estate empire, as does the father of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. Gov. Lamont comes from what can easily be called a business dynasty, with his family filled with corporate executives, real estate investors and other commercial royalty. Before we doubt the power of business dynasties, let’s remember that Donald Trump was able to pivot his entire family into a position of power, with Lara Trump now co-chair of the Republican National Committee. A business dynasty can absolutely convert itself into a political one, if given the chance, and if holding the will.

    I am not insinuating that these people are undeserving of their roles. Anyone elected to office has obviously proven themselves capable enough to gain the confidence and support of their constituents. However, it is nevertheless dangerous to give offices to families, and allow them to pass down the generations like heirlooms.

    Many Americans may doubt the problem. After all, the days of political dynasties can seem distant. The Rockefellers have lost political prestige, the Kennedys are a shadow of their former selves, while the Bushes and Clintons have fallen. However, political dynasties have never gone away. The Murkowskis in Alaska, the Frelinghuysens in New Jersey and the Trumps now nationally. Power can still be controlled within a bloodline, just like it has been throughout history.

    Political dynasties go against our most basic ideals of democratic government. Democracy necessitates competition. We would decry political machines, or one-party states, and similarly we cannot allow an aristocracy to entrench itself. That is antithetical to American ideals in each and every way.

    We must commit ourselves to a vanguard; to preserve the many opportunities provided by our home. Connecticut, after all, has proven itself to be an arbiter for the American Dream. Representative Joe Hoxha (R, 78th District) and Senator MD Rahman (D, 4th District) are both immigrants who managed to climb their way into government. The DiNardos and Ganims also come from very humble origins. But let us remember that the first Kennedy was a barrel maker, while Trump’s grandfather was a brothel owner. Families who rise by the American Dream can come to dominate it, and if given opportunity and desire, can vitiate it.

    We should not vote against someone just because of their last name. However, we also shouldn’t vote for someone just because of their last name. They shouldn’t be excluded from office, nor should they be entitled to it. Families controlling political power undermines the democratic process, and encourages aristocratic nobility. So when we go to vote, let us remember that risk, and pay more attention to the candidate than their relatives.

    Mathew Biadun is from Bristol, and currently studies History and Political Science at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is an intern for the Connecticut Republicans and writes for the Campus Lantern, ECSU’s student newspaper.

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